Hospital de Sant Pau, Barcelona

The Only 15 Tips You’ll Need To Bring Your Travel Photography to the Next Level

13 minutes

Written by David / Photos by Michelle & David

13 minutes

Do you feel your travel photography needs an upgrade? Look no further, here are 15+ of the most actionable tips you’ll find around to take your travel shots to the next level!

You’ll find a lot of information around on how to improve your travel photography technique for more “wow!” pictures. Always use a tripod, use this or that lens for this or that location etc. However, not even the best skills will cut it unless the subject, the location or the light is worth it.

And I tell you, finding the perfect shot requires not only patience but also some inspiration and skill.

If inspiration is what you are after today, have a look at our post on alternative ways to inspire your travel photography.

After shooting in endless locations, we know that scouting for the best travel pics is not easy. This is why we want to share with you guys some of the secrets we have learned the hard way.

Every destination is different and some of the tips here will probably make more sense in cities rather than in the wild or on land rather than underwater. However, I guarantee that by the time you read the last one of them, you’ll see epic photography opportunities everywhere you go.

The coolest thing is, most of our tips work regardless of the camera you have. A smartphone? No problem! A point and shoot? Awesome! A mirrorless? Great! A DSLR? Perfect!

So let’s start training your photographer’s eye!

Tip 1 – Work on your inspiration beforehand

One of the most challenging things to do for your travel photography when in an unfamiliar place is to get your inspiration rolling.

You just walk around with your camera and nothing seems appealing enough to bring that viewfinder to your face.

The bad news is, inspiration is not an exact science, as I’m sure you already know. Here is the good news though, you can actually help the process.

Any search engine, Pinterest, Instagram, 500px, Flickr account or even your good old paper travel guide can help. All of them will show you what others have seen and photographed literally thousands of times.

Need more inspirational tips? Read our 7 Alternative Ways To Inspire Your Travel Photography.

How else could we have come across the bend of the Saar river during our road trip around southern Germany?

Saarschliefe, Germany

Bend of the Saar river, Saarschliefe, Germany

It’s up to you to decide if you’re happy replicating the classic clichés (the tourist way) or if you want to avoid them altogether (the traveller way). Or if you are going to get creative and shoot the typical shot in a more imaginative way.

Tip 2 – Travel light

Less is more when it comes to walking around trying to spot that perfect location or opportunity. In general, the more mobile you are, the better for your travel photography.

Do not obsess about equipment either. Yes, a DSLR with a professional-grade lens and a tripod will be the best choice for landscape or nature pictures but it will slow you down if what you’re looking for is some more candid people shots.

Travel photography at Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales, Australia

Grand Pacific Drive, New South Wales, Australia

Quoting the title of a 2009 book by the American photographer and director Chase Jarvis, “the best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Tip 3 – Be patient, do not rush it

Let’s say you are all set for that trip to France that you always wanted to take and are naturally planning to visit Paris.

If you visit for the first time, you will want to capture the Eiffel Tower or the Sacré-Coeur. Or even the Wall of Love.

Clichés? Oh yes.

But nothing to be embarrassed about, we have all been there. After all, they are tourist attractions for a reason.

Just be patient, grab a coffee at one of the street vendors around and take your time, wander around and play with the composition or the angle (more on that later).

Parvis-Notre-Dame, Paris, France

Parvis-Notre-Dame, Paris, France

Just sit and wait, magic happens sometimes. After all, travelling shouldn’t be a hectic race and you should definitely soak in the atmosphere of the place.

Tip 4 – Trust your taxi driver

As mere visitors, we can all learn lots from the locals we meet on the way.

Searching for an authentic restaurant in Barcelona? Just ask the taxi driver, they know their cheap eats.

Looking at visiting the busiest night market in Bangkok? Ask the tuk-tuk driver, he surely can advise.

What about a not-so-well-known location in the neighbourhood while in Venice, Italy? Go ask that gondolier.

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Sure, it takes a while to realise that not everyone you meet is a scammer in disguise. And yes, you might have to give away a coin or two in the process, but the tips you’ll get in return are priceless!

Tip 5 – Get lost, on purpose

Right, I get it.

The language barrier is sometimes too much of an issue or today you don’t feel comfortable asking around. What about taking your camera for a casual stroll and see what happens?

Have a quick look at your guide for directions, pack some water and snacks and start your little adventure for the day.

Can Tho, Vietnam

Can Tho, Vietnam

Do not skip markets! Do not miss the gorgeous displays and the chance to learn about local traditions, let alone all the memorable photos you can get from there.

Tip 6 – Take a photo tour, learn from the best

If you do not fancy solo travel or are short on time, then this is an option worth exploring.

Regardless of how photography savvy you are (or think you are), you can always learn a couple of new things in one of these tours. When it comes to creativity, it never hurts to have a few more tricks up your sleeve.

London, UK

London, UK

Specialised photography tours are available in most cities around the world and are mostly lead by very knowledgeable people that know the area. When in London, we trust the guys at Hairy Goat.

Tip 7 – The art of people watching

Similar to the light, the flow of people is different depending on the time of the day or the season.

Sundays are perfect for people photography at Plaza de Armas in Cuzco (Peru), when local families stroll around. Early mornings are just what you need for a picture of the Pyramide du Louvre, Paris (France) without anyone around. And mostly every time is best for people watching in Brick Lane (London), with astounding backdrops.

Street art in Brick Lane, London

Street art in Brick Lane, London

Choose your background, sit tight and wait for your subject to walk by. It never fails!

Tip 8 – Look up, down, left and right

Like emergency exits on a plane, your best travel photography opportunity can be behind you or even down at your feet.

It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of the moment when visiting somewhere new. But look around, take your time and enjoy all little details, even if that means turning your head around.

Jimbaran, Bali

Jimbaran, Bali

Got a window seat and a long flight ahead? Do not forget to look out for some impressive views worth capturing. After all, we don’t fly that high every day.

Tip 9 – Different light, another opportunity

Light –together with composition– is to photography what location is to real estate.

You’ll be surprised at how much impact different light conditions can have on your pictures.

While you’ll find brighter highlights and shallower shadows during the peak hours of the day, you’ll have warmer colours and softer light around sunset and sunrise.

Sunset in Paracas, Peru

Sunset in Paracas, Peru

Sunset in Llansa, Costa Brava, Spain

Sunset in Llansa, Costa Brava, Spain

Also, don’t forget night photography is a thing too. Even if quite tricky technically speaking. Check out our eerie night picture in Erice, Sicily, that seems taken directly from a mystery novel.

Make the Golden Hour or the lesser-known Blue Hour work for you. Many apps will help you plan ahead, we love The Photographer’s Ephemeris.

Tip 10 – Cloudy? Bad weather? Go out

We run indoors when it rains, it’s in our nature.

And it’s actually your first logical reaction when carrying your favourite non-waterproof camera.

But what if I tell you your pictures will look more dramatic under thundery clouds just before it starts pouring?

If a better-exposed shot is not enough for you to stop worrying, always carry a plastic ziplock bag, a makeshift cover for your camera at a moments notice.

Storm in Krabi, Thailand

Storm in Krabi, Thailand

Thick stormy skies are rich with texture, especially when slightly underexposed. They are going to help you to expose the overall scene uniformly. Who doesn’t hate overexposed skies?

Tip 11 – From another angle

Don’t always rely on what you see at eye level.

If you’re looking at photographing people, you might want to try and shoot from your hip level for a more flattering perspective.

Get closer to the model and point from a high angle if what you’re looking at is a more comical look.

Or point your camera upwards from a lower position or tilt it for a more dynamic look.

A vintage American car in Trinidad Cuba

A vintage American car in Trinidad Cuba

Another way you can use the shooting angle creatively is to force reflections. Go low or even lay flat on the floor to make reflections on water work for you.

Tip 12 – Keep the composition simple

Who said minimalism and travel photography do not go together?

If you think minimalist compositions are dull, think twice. You can take advantage of interesting textures, strong lines, hard contrasts and bright colours to capture stunning creative shots.

To plan for a simple composition will also challenge your observation skills and help you focus on the detail. That little shop sign of the old bakery in Positano (Italy) or the colours on the hot air balloon getting ready for an early morning flight in Arizona, USA, could produce a stunning and unexpected photo.

Balloons at sunrise, Arizona, USA

Balloons at sunrise, Arizona, USA

When on the go, you’ll be tempted to fill up the frame with as much as you can before pressing the shutter. However, bear in mind that a minimalist composition will help you tell the story louder and clearer.

Tip 13 – Make it fun

Scouting around for travel photography locations should be fun. Be creative and make it a game.

Try speed photography, with a twist. In any city with an underground system go take a picture at every subway station on your route as soon as the doors open, you’ll be surprised at the results! Many subway stations are works of art in their own right, as the subway system in Moscow, Russia.

Do you enjoy street art? Go and challenge yourself, let’s see how many pieces you can spot in a set time!

Station signs, London Underground, UK

Station signs, London Underground, UK

This is an excellent way to introduce your kids to photography and to keep them busy in the process. Make it a game, make it fun.

Tip 14 – Get out of your photo comfort-zone

Amateur or professional, every type of photographer in us feels more comfortable with one or two speciality subjects, and that’s alright. Nature landscape, architecture, people portraiture, underwater photography, etc.

But venturing out of your comfort zone is something you should do at least once in a while. Is nature landscape photography your thing? Be adventurous and plan for some people portraiture or even some macro photography.

Clownfish at Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Clownfish at Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Do you need some inspiration and you’re up for a challenge? We love our deck of LightBox Photography Cards. Classic, Macro, Mobile or Wedding editions, all of them are lots of fun (Disclaimer: we are not associated with this product and do not receive any commission in exchange).

Tip 15 – Let your pictures tell the story

When travelling with a camera –ANY camera– use it to keep a photo diary of your experiences.

How can I do it, I hear you say?

Every story has a protagonist (that red vintage car in front of a church in Italy, that mango seller around the corner in Cuba, etc.

See where I am going?

Try to compose your picture around this subject and use leading lines, shallow depth of field, framing or any other technique to draw the attention of the viewer to it.

Habana Vieja, Cuba

Habana Vieja, Cuba

Look for contrasts. Contrasts of any kind will produce impacting pictures, and here I do not only mean contrasting colours or the smart use of shadows. Cultural contrasts will work too, making that picture a true memory of your last trip.

Bonus Tip – Think before snapping that shot

All the tips here will work for you, guaranteed! On your next trip, you’ll be snapping away like never before! 10, 20,..100 shots every day! You’ll have some great pictures to be proud of!

But slow down, the last thing you want to do when back home is to have to dig your golden nuggets out of thousands of dull shots.

Travel photography, on the ferry to Koh Samui, Thailand

To Koh Samui, Thailand

If you’re shooting in digital, preview your pictures on the move and only keep the ones with interesting composition and excellent exposure. Be bold, just keep the images you would feel comfortable seeing printed!

Yet Another Bonus Tip – Practice, practice, practice

This one is a no-brainer.

To see photo opportunities everywhere, you will have to train your eye. And there is no better way than to go out there and practice.

Be creative, try new things and most of all, have fun. Photography should be effortless if you still want to enjoy your travel experiences.

Do you have any other tip you care to share with us? Leave us a comment, we would love to hear from you!

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